We have a mouthful of a name: British Iron Touring Club of NW Arkansas. But we don’t formally use it that often. Normally it’s condensed to British Iron. You might not expect a dynamic British car club in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, but for the last thirty or so years—starting with a few guys from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville—we have grown steadily. Membership varies from 45 to 50 and, we’re proud to say, most everyone is active.
We are lucky in many ways: First, our “Don’t Take This Too Seriously” policy results in a relaxed club spirit, leaving a lot of room for good times. For instance, at our annual car show, entrants are advised that white gloves and Q-tips are forbidden. We are about having fun and we believe that this attitude is responsible for the generous compliments we get from out-of-state visitors. It also doesn’t hurt any that our show is held at a great location and we invite nationally known guests to speak at our award dinner.
Secondly, our club newsletter BRITISH is genuinely fun to read, combining humor, history and technical information.
Thirdly, we are lucky to enjoy something most other clubs would envy—our own garage called the ‘Brit Stop’ (which happens to double as a clubhouse and saloon). It’s equipped with a vintage Sun engine analyzer, exhaust gas analyzer, hydraulic lift, cold beer, lounge area, an out of tune piano, and lots of rusty stuff to play with.
We stay active as a club. We believe in driving the cars—the running ones, of course—and schedule club drives through the scenic Ozarks throughout the good weather months. Staying busy as a club keeps us in touch with each other and our wheeled toys.
This past year we held our 10th all-British car show called ‘Brits in the Ozarks,’ and, as we’ve done all along, all our proceeds have been donated to charity. We’ve supported the Muscular Dystrophy Association and, in recent years, the ALS Association to aid in its battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. Last year our event drew 173 cars from Texas to Iowa, Tennessee to Oklahoma. Counting all the years, we have been able to raise more than $130,000. It was another car club, the BMCA in Little Rock, that originally inspired us to put on these benefit car shows. Several of us attended their event 12 years ago and at the award dinner we were touched by the testimony of a family who received MDA assistance. We looked at each other and said, “We need to do this.” So, we came back home and pitched it to the club at the next meeting.
The club backed—and continues to back—the effort that makes the whole thing possible. As small as we are, the car show would never work without strong buy-in and dedication from the whole club.
Surprising, perhaps, our club officers are not elected yearly. We find someone good at their specialty and joke that they can only leave that job by moving out of state or dying. Sort of like being a Federal Court Judge only without the money or prestige. A measure of the success of this club is that our President, Treasurer, Webmaster and Editor, for instance, have all enjoyed their jobs and full membership support for six years or more. We operate by consensus and avoid formality and bureaucracy with surprising success.
It really is an enjoyable club.
By Bill Watkins – Club President and Wil Wing – Club Editor